A Somali soldier walks near destroyed buildings after a suicide car bomb, Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 27, 2016 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Two suicide bombs went off Sunday in Baidoa, Somalia, leaving at least 20 people dead and 60 injured, in an attack claimed by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab. In an email interview, Ken Menkhaus, a professor of political science at Davidson University, discussed the fight against al-Shabab and the security situation in Somalia. WPR: What is the current security situation in Somalia, and how much does it vary locally across the country? Ken Menkhaus: The security situation across Somalia is harder to generalize than one might expect. Most media reports give the impression that Somalia is uniformly dangerous, but actual […]

U.S. soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston).

Many nations have the luxury of a tightly focused security strategy. They face a single threat or a small number of them. This determines what type of equipment, personnel, concepts and technology, as well as how many troops, they need. But great powers are different. Far-ranging commitments force them to prepare for diverse threats and missions. The stakes are great: Preparing for the wrong type of war can be as dangerous as not preparing at all. During the Cold War, the bipolar global security system meant that the United States also had the luxury of a focused, if expansive, strategy. […]

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with Revolutionary Guard officers who were involved in the detention of U.S. Navy sailors in Iranian waters, Tehran, Jan. 24, 2016 (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader photo via AP).

The lifting of economic sanctions on Iran has raised concerns that Tehran will use its newly released funds on vast military spending, threatening stability in the Middle East. Given escalating tensions with its Gulf Arab neighbors, the presence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State along its borders and ongoing military operations in Syria, Iran is indeed likely to spend a significant portion of its unfrozen assets and the unknown billions generated from renewed foreign trade on its military. Even so, it faces an enormous modernization bill and a host of bureaucratic, political and military-doctrinal challenges before it can effectively turn cash […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Moscow, Russia, Feb. 23, 2016 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Russia’s bold military interventions in both Ukraine and Syria have put Moscow’s geopolitical ambitions back at the center of analysis and debate. Despite last year’s confident claims in Western capitals that Moscow would be unable to sustain its efforts in both countries, there is no indication that the Kremlin plans to alter its policies in 2016. To the contrary, Russian President Vladimir Putin, having decided that core national interests are at stake, has made it clear that he will stay the course. At the same time, however, Russia continues to pay a heavy economic price exacted by international sanctions and […]

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza during a meeting, Bujumbura, Burundi, Feb. 23, 2016 (AP photo).

Violence has enveloped Burundi since last April, when protests broke out following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial announcement that he would run for a third term, despite a constitutional two-term limit. On Tuesday, after meeting with Nkurunziza in the capital, Bujumbura, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that Nkurunziza had agreed to hold talks with the opposition. Nkurunziza also said that he would release 2,000 people detained by authorities amid the unrest. The president’s decision last year to run again was met with outcries from Burundi’s opposition, which called the move unconstitutional. In May, rogue military officers attempted a coup, which the […]

Pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad at a checkpoint to the Hamidiyeh market, Damascus, Syria, Feb. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

With Russian-backed Syrian forces close to encircling Aleppo, thereby cutting off supply lines for the rebels holding the key city, the Syrian civil war seems to have entered a new phase. Russia’s intervention has clearly reversed the course of the conflict, dimming prospects for meaningful compromise by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s newly ascendant regime in peace talks to end the fighting. Instead, the pro-regime coalition seems to have decided to win the war in western Syria on the ground, with the recently agreed cease-fire simply diplomatic cover for a slow consolidation of territorial control. Since Russia’s intervention last fall, critics […]

Kenyan soldiers pay their respects at a memorial service honoring soldiers killed while on peacekeeping duty in Somalia, Eldoret, Kenya, Jan. 27, 2016 (AP photo by John Muchucha).

With a devastating attack last month on an army base in southwestern Somalia housing Kenyan soldiers, the militant group al-Shabab once again signaled its strength, despite the years-long regional effort to wipe it out. Dozens of Kenyan soldiers were slaughtered in the assault, which raised questions about Nairobi’s role in the ongoing campaign against the Islamic extremists. But Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta insists his government is committed to vanquishing al-Shabab—even as it does everything it can to silence any domestic debate over Kenya’s continued involvement in that effort. Kenya first ventured into Somalia in October 2011 with the launch of […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses U.S. troops at the Incirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey, Dec. 15, 2015 (AP photo).

In the aftermath of the Cold War, two operations became seminal events for America’s armed forces: Operation Desert Storm and the peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia. The military’s leaders saw the war with Iraq as the model for their future, so they institutionalized it in what they called the “revolution in military affairs.” But, in fact, Yugoslavia was the true preview of 21st-century conflict. Now Syria has become Yugoslavia on steroids, the bloody paragon of this century’s wars. As in Yugoslavia, ethnic, sectarian, religious and regional hostility that the national government had long suppressed and kept in check were […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang at the Presidential Palace, Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Na Son Nguyen).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the South China Sea territorial disputes and the various claimant countries’ approaches to addressing them. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Hanoi early last month, he did so with understandable fanfare and scrutiny. His was the first visit to Vietnam by a Chinese president in a decade. It came just weeks before the annual ASEAN and East Asia Summits, and only a few months ahead of the Vietnamese Communist Party congress to be held in early 2016. Given the timing, observers in China and Vietnam, as well as […]

Presidential candidates before the CBS News Republican presidential debate, Feb. 13, 2016, Greenville, S.C. (AP photo by John Bazemore).

An iconic cover illustration of the New Yorker magazine once purported to show the stereotypical Manhattan resident’s view of the world: Looking west from 9th Avenue, half the page consists of a relatively detailed rendering of the city’s buildings and streets leading up to the Hudson River. Beyond that, a small patch of land, featureless but for several cartoonish mountains and place names, passes for America. Faintly visible in the distance beyond the Pacific Ocean are landmasses helpfully labeled as China, Japan and Russia. If one were to draw a similar cartoon illustration to represent how this year’s U.S. presidential […]

Chinese performers participate in a cultural dance at Ditan Park to mark the first day of the Lunar New Year, Beijing, Feb. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

In this special edition of the Trend Lines podcast, WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein and host Peter Dörrie talk about China’s rise as an economic and political power and the implications for Asia and the rest of the world. The discussion coincides with a panel WPR is sponsoring on China’snaval, economic and cyber ambitionsand the implications for the U.S. at the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs on Feb. 19. Listen:Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: The Challenge of China’s Bid for Cyber Suzerainty China’s Naval Modernization: Where Is It Headed? Do China’s Global Economic Ambitions Really Threaten […]

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at a press conference, Tokyo, Jan. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

In January, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond visited Japan to meet with their Japanese counterparts. Following the meeting, both sides agreed to explore ways to deepen and expand their security cooperation. In an email interview, Edward Schwarck, a research fellow in Asia studies and manager of the Asia Program at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, discusses the U.K.’s security ties with Asia. WPR: Who are the U.K.’s main security partners in Asia, and how extensive are their security ties? Edward Schwarck: As has been stated on many occasions by British ministers, the […]

Syrian army troops inside the Kweiras air base, east of Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 11, 2015 (SANA photo via AP).

Thanks in large part to Russia’s intervention, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has registered a series of important victories against its armed opposition and now seems to be encircling Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city. While the civil war is far from over, the conflict’s current trajectory suggests a regime military victory in the western half of the country. But the United States and other so-called Friends of Syria would do well to consider the implications of what it means to watch from the sidelines while the Russian air force obliterates the Syrian rebels. Set aside the moral stain of […]

Protesters hold posters of Edward Snowden in front of the German parliament, Berlin, Germany, Nov. 18, 2013 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

This week on the Trend Lines podcast, WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein talks to host Peter Dörrie about the future of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers, President Barack Obama’s nuclear nonproliferation legacy, what declining oil prices mean for Equatorial Guinea’s stability, and other stories from around the world. For the Report, Abraham Newman joins us to explain the politics that led to the nullification of the Safe Harbor agreement between the United States and the European Union and how a new regime to protect digital privacy could be structured. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: What Does […]

A computer displays a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the Internet at an Internet cafe, Beijing, China, Aug. 19, 2013 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s note: This article is one of three briefings on China’s rise and its implications for U.S. regional and global interests, coinciding with an upcoming panel, in collaboration with WPR, at the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs on Feb. 17-19 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The first, on China’s global economic ambitions, appeared Monday; the second, on China’s naval modernization, appeared Wednesday. The Internet revolution began in the 1990s, when China was still recovering from the damage done during Mao Zedong’s reign and the world was adjusting to the West’s post-Cold War pre-eminence. Under such circumstances, Chinese leaders saw the […]

Susan Ford Bales, daughter of former President Gerald R. Ford, christens the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford, Newport News, Va., Nov. 9, 2013 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

To advocates, they are 90,000 tons of American sovereignty, deployable anywhere on the globe to project power decisively and at will. In crises, presidents ask, Where are the aircraft carriers? But to critics, they are hugely expensive and increasingly vulnerable monuments to a naval age gone by. They represent the past, not the future, of naval power. Recently, this debate flared up again in the United States as prospective adversaries, like Russia and China, build long-range weapons and create anti-access and area-denial environments. Does the U.S. need aircraft carriers, and, if so, how many? The answer, not surprisingly, is complicated. […]

Chinese sailors of the Changbai Shan, a Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock, Portsmouth, U.K., Jan. 12, 2015 (U.K. Ministry of Defence photo).

Editor’s note: This article is one of three briefings on China’s rise and its implications for U.S. regional and global interests, coinciding with an upcoming panel, in collaboration with WPR, at the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs on Feb. 17-19 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The first, on China’s global economic ambitions, appeared Monday; the third, on China’s cyber strategy, will appear Friday. The past two years have seen impressive advances in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s capabilities. In 2015, China revealed that it had begun building its second aircraft carrier and that it had begun its first submarine […]

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